Africa’s Two Female Presidents Meet in Liberia

30/04/2012 – The presidents of Liberia and Malawi, notable for being the first women presidents on the continent of Africa, met in Liberia. Malawi’s Joyce Banda, spoke about the need to empower female-kind.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joyce Banda, Africa’s two first women presidents, met over the weekend in Liberia for that they termed a "consultation."

The two held their consultation with one another in what was one among Ms. Banda’s first out-of-country visit since taking office only this month. Malawi’s Joyce Banda, age 61, became head of state when her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika, passed away earlier this month. A lauded champion of women’s rights, President Banda has a mission to end the cycle of poverty and abuse that has trapped women in the country, Reuters reports.

Ms. Banda, a former vice president and gender minister, and Ms. Sirleaf, a former finance minister, were both named among Forbes’ Magazine’s three most formidable female politicians.

A vital part of empowering women and ensuring gender equality will be making sure that girls are enrolled in and stay in school—something that can head off early marriage, pregnancy and early death from complications of pregnancy in young girls, whose underdeveloped bodies put them at a higher risk of maternal mortality.

At present, Malawi will only meet the Millennium Development Goal to achieve gender equality and universal primary education by 2015 if certain changes are made, according to the United Nations' monitoring tool.

In Malawi, only about 79 per cent of girls attend primary school on a regular basis, while less than a quarter of girls are enrolled in secondary schooling.

“I got married at 22 and remained in an abusive marriage for 10 years. I made up my mind that that was never going to happen to me again. I made a brave step to walk out in a society when you didn't walk out of an abusive marriage,” President Band told The Guardian in Pretoria, South Africa. “I began to think about those that were in my situation that were not able to walk out . . . I was thinking what it was I could do to reach out to them."

Presidents Johnson Sirleaf and Banda also put on a meeting for prominent women in the country at the Ministry of Gender and Development Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia.

“We are looking forward to make use of this decade for the empowerment of women. This is our opportunity to excel,” said Ms. Banda to local media.